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renounces his faith. They have often been subjected to terrible tortures, but have invariably preferred death to the adoption of any other form of worship. Even when young children are carried off and sold to Turkish harems, they often cherish through life the religion of their childhood, and contrive to keep up a secret communication with their priests.
GREECE AND ROME.
Man gifted Nature with divinity,
To lift and link her to the breast of love;
The tracks of gods above.
Stern self-denial, or sharp penance wan.
SCHILLER's Gods of Greece.
GREECE was the oldest European nation. Its history extends a little more than one thousand eight hundred years before Christ; two hundred years earlier than Moses; but they were a rude people at that time, dwelling in huts and caves. Being settled by colonies from Egypt, Phoenicia, Thrace, and other countries, their religious customs and opinions varied considerably in different states; but the general features were similar. They worshipped many deities, all intended to represent the divine energy acting in various departments of the universe. A few enlightened minds among them taught that these all proceeded from One Central Source of Being; and this belief, confused and dim at first, became more distinct as knowledge increased.
Athens was founded by a colony from Egypt, and the intercourse between that country and Greece was always frequent. The effect of this on their religion and philosophy is very obvious. But in the Grecian atmosphere of thought and feeling all things were tinged with more cheerful and poetic colours. Egyptian reverence for stability and power was here changed to worship of freedom and beauty. Strong, active, and vivacious themselves, the Grecians invested their deities with the same characteristics. They did not conceive of them as dwelling apart in passionless majesty, like Egyptian gods, with a solemn veil of obscurity around them. They were in the midst of things, working, fighting, loving, rivalling, and outwitting each other, just like human beings, from whom they differed mainly in more enlarged powers.
No anchorites here preached torture of the body for the good of the soul. How to enjoy the pleasures of life with prudence, and invest it with the greatest degree of beauty, was their morality. In the procession of the nations, Greece always comes bounding before the imagination, like a graceful young man in the early freshness of his vigour; and nothing can wean a poetic mind from the powerful attraction of his immortal beauty.
Gay, imaginative, pliable, and free, the Grecians received religious ideas from every source, and wove them all together in a mythological web of fancy, confused and wavering in its patterns, but full of golden threads. They seem to have copied external rites from Egypt, without troubling themselves to comprehend the symbolical meaning, which priests concealed so carefully. They added ceremonies and legends from other countries, broken into fragments, and mixed together in strange disorder.
They had no Sacred Books, in the usual meaning of the term. Minos, their first lawgiver, was believed to have received his laws directly from Jupiter ; and popular veneration invested with a certain degree of sacred author. ity the poems of Hesiod and Homer, supposed to have been written about nine hundred years before Christ. These works were believed to be divinely inspired by Apollo and the Muses. This was not a mere poetical figure of speech with the Grecians, as it would be with us; for they had a lively and undoubting faith that Apollo and the Muses were genuine deities, who took cognizance of the affairs of men, and filled the souls of prophets and poets with divine inspiration. It is said by some that
Hesiod was a priest in the temple of the Muses, on Mount Helicon. He seems to have been desirous to inculcate religious reverence, and a love of agriculture. He condemos licentiousness, irreverence to parents, and riches procured by fraud or violence. He strongly insists on the sacredness of an oath, and the laws of hospitality. He teaches to love those who love us, and to return gifts to the generous. He recommends withholding friendly offices from enemies ; but declares that Jupiter will certainly punish those who refuse to pardon a suppliant offender. He gives a rather unintelligible account of the creation of the world from chaos. One of the most conspicuous agents in the work is Love, by which he probably meant the Principle of Attraction, drawing the elements into union, and producing a series of offspring; thus by the marriage of Heaven and Earth, Ocean was born. The deities, whom he describes as intermarrying, fighting, and plotting against each other, were the popular Gods of the country, the Spirits supposed to preside over planets and elements. He tells of huge giants called Titans, born of Heaven and Earth. One of them, named Chronos by the Greeks and Saturn by the Romans, dethroned his father Coelus, or Heaven, and governed the universe. He is represented as devouring his own children ; an allegorical way of saying that Time, whose Greek name is Chronos, destroys whatever he produces. One of his sons, named Jupiter, who escaped by artifice of his mother, expelled his father, and reigned in his stead. The Titans made war upon him, but he succeeded in chaining them all in the dungeons of Tartarus. These legends are supposed to be symbolical of the struggle of the elements when the world was formed.
Hesiod describes the administration of Saturn as the Golden Age of the world. Men lived like gods, without vices or passions, vexation or toil. In happy companionship with divine beings, they passed their days in tranquillity and joy, living together in perfect equality, united by mutual confidence and love. The earth was more beautiful than now, and spontaneously yielded an abundant variety of fruits. Human beings and animals spoke the same language, and conversed freely together. Men were considered mere boys at a hundred years old. They had none of the infirmities of age to trouble them, and when they passed to regions of superior life, it was in a gentle slumber. Then followed the Silver Age, when the lives of men were shortened on account of their neglect of the gods, and injustice toward each other. This was succeeded by a Brazen Age of turbulence and insecurity. This degenerated still more into the Iron Age, corresponding to the Cali Yug of the Hindoos. Hesiod laments that his own birth happened in this unfortunate period of time, when the life of man is but a span, when fraud, violence, calumny, and all manner of crimes and diseases, everywhere abound.
Homer resembles Hesiod in his ideas of vice and virtue. Superior power, not moral excellence, is the essential element in his conception of divine beings. He represents them as very human in their passions, motives, and actions. They enjoy oblations of bread, wine, fruit, and the sacrifice of animals, as one man enjoys the hospitality of another. They are wrathful and relentless when offended, and can be appeased only by prayers and gifts. They fall in love with mortal women, by whom a race of demi-gods are produced. They resort to all manner of trickery and violence to accomplish their purposes. Thus Pallas Athenæ is represented as obtaining permission from Zeus to tempt Pandarus to violate a treaty solemnly sworn to. Such treachery is described as meritorious, by the Greek poets, because it was exercised in favour of their own nation.
A direct supernatural agency guides and controls all things, great and small. Birth, death, health, beauty, riches, all that a man is, and all that he has, are attributed to the gods. Every phenomenon of nature, every great thought, and noble impulse, is ascribed to divine agency. Any person highly gifted is supposed to be peculiarly dear to the deity who presides over that gift. Poets and prophets receive their inspiration from Phoebus, and Helen